Friday, September 14, 2018

The Garbage Of "Estuary Protection Wells" ... by gimleteye

Florida is swimming in a sea of pollution. It is not a blameless event. Our water catastrophe has many mothers and fathers, but it is undeniably the case that Republican leadership in the state legislature and two terms of Gov. Rick Scott -- an opponent of environmental regulation and enforcement -- led to massive taxpayer jeopardy, severe risk to public health where people come into contact with dangerous toxins in the water, and a mess of property values including the lands of the Seminole and Miccosuckee Tribes.

Scott, who is running for US Senate against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, blames the federal government and "funding shortfalls". These talking points are cynical and wrong. Technically speaking, the federal government through the US Army Corps of Engineers manages the flood control system in South Florida, but Florida calls the shots.

Yesterday, a Miccosukee leader put it in context: "In the old days they practiced genocide against Native Americans by passing blankets to us with smallpox. Today they don't need smallpox, they just send us another kind of blanket: polluted waters."

The funding shortfalls are a result of the Republican Congress and the Trump White House.  They claim funding environmental protection is too expensive. Moreover, they heartily endorse turning over environmental protection agencies to polluters. They will not strengthen water quality laws because -- they claim -- the states can do it.

This is Big Sugar's claim, supported by Rick Scott, in a federal appeals court challenging Everglades protection measures that Scott has already taken credit for. But states like Florida deliberately underfund, undercut, and erode water quality protections.

Downstream in the Everglades, the Miccosukee Tribe is drowning in polluted water and upstream, suburban homeowners' pets are dying from contact with toxic water. Logic is dying in Florida because when common sense arrives -- like using eminent domain to build adequate storage and treatment marshes to clean up the foul water -- it is beaten into a pulp by Republicans who say: "You can't 'take' private property from sugar billionaires!". Actually, yes we can. 

Instead of hard, fast numerical standards to restrict pollution where it occurs, Florida is suffering under the figments of "voluntary compliance" and the kinds of soft, squishy verbiage that buries cause and effect where the sun doesn't shine.

That is exactly how Scott's South Florida Water Management District proposes to address the pollution crisis in Lake Okeechobee and highly toxic cyanobacteria algae blooms that are driving Florida's reputation as a tourist wonderland into the the toxic muck.

Yesterday, the District governing board -- Scott political appointees -- approved burying billions of gallons of filthy water in deep wells underground. They are called "emergency estuary protection wells", and they will work just about as well as Aladdin's magic carpet; great in juvenile imaginations and the supply chain that pushes the magical thinking into hard, engineered profits.

The Bush Environmental Protection Agency let this well drilling technology metastasize in Florida. The agency relaxed tough standards prohibiting migration of injection fluids underground. That rule, part of the Safe Drinking Water Act, was precautionary and prescriptive.

In a state virtually defined by porous aquifer layers, an earlier generation of leadership agreed that maybe using underground wells to dump shit, whether treated or not, was a bad idea. Funny how the goal lines change, isn't it, when it comes to the environment.

So instead of addressing pollution at its source or using shallow storage and treatment marshes sized to treat the toxic mess -- deemed too expensive to special interests who massively dominate the legislature and legislators' political campaigns -- Scott's appointees did the opposite yesterday: they decided to bury the problem. One of Scott's governing board members, Brandon Tucker, defended the indefensible in a Sunshine News OPED, "Misinformation results in a domino effect that can have real consequences on the future of restoration in South Florida. False information is published, the public accepts it as fact, campaigns of support are raised and media channels use this misinformation as if it were gospel."

The District extruded its misinformation-filled gospel: "The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board on Thursday approved a plan to move forward with test wells and exploration of a strategy that could further reduce damaging discharges to the coastal estuaries while larger Everglades restoration projects are completed. "With inconsistencies in federal funding causing delays to long-term restoration projects, Emergency Estuary Protection Wells serve as the most immediate and most beneficial option to provide relief to our northern estuaries during high water emergencies," said SFWMD Governing Board member Brandon Tucker. "This Board supports this proven, cost effective technology while working toward the ultimate goal of getting large-scale Everglades restoration projects online."

Shannon Estenoz, a former governing board member of the District and now COO of the Everglades Foundation, addressed the magical thinking of the Scott appointees in a June OPED, "Deep injection wells not the answer to state's water problems" in the TC Palm, "Not much is known about what happens when vast quantities of water are forced deep underground. Floridians, more than anyone else, know what harm can occur when massive volumes of water are forced to go where they don’t belong. More fundamentally, deep injection wells represent old, flawed thinking that tries to solve the problem of too much rain by “getting rid of water.” This sounds familiar. It is what our predecessors did when they designed the flood management system causing our current problems. They thought they could benignly shed trillions of gallons of water by dumping it into the Gulf and the Atlantic."

No, it is not the federal government's fault no matter how many times the state's GOP Congressional delegation and Gov. Scott repeat the lie: the fault belongs with state government which citizens and conservation groups have sued, time and again, demanding the state follow its own laws and fund environmental protection measures. (After Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a 2014 ballot referendum to allocate billions to purchase environmentally sensitive lands, the Republican legislature and Gov. Scott refused to do it. Environmentalists sued in state court and won.)

Jobs, jobs, jobs, beats like a metronome, while campaign funders get rich polluting waters we need for healthy, productive lives. Billions of taxpayer dollars continue to be spent in the grim charade, without addressing pollution at its source.

Yes, Democrats bear a fair share of responsibility for letting polluters get away with murder in Florida; for failing to confront the phalanxes of lobbyists in the state capitol who also profit from the state's miserable water quality disasters. But Gov. Scott and his GOP allies own this mess and neither "emergency estuary protection wells" nor any other creative loafing is going to change the outcome.

That power is in the hands of voters in November.


Jason said...

Good breakdown, here's my quick take on yesterday's meeting:

Anonymous said...

STILL, Since 1972 Clean Water Act :
33 U.S. Code § 1251 - Congressional declaration of goals and policy -
(a) Restoration and maintenance of chemical, physical and biological integrity of Nation’s waters; national goals for achievement of objectiveThe objective of this chapter is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters. In order to achieve this objective it is hereby declared that, consistent with the provisions of this chapter—
(1) it is the national goal that the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters be eliminated by 1985.

Unknown said...

10 intelligent people ..... watch as sewage becomes normal ...

Cyndi said...

Terrific Post! The moment I heard the term Estuary Protection Wells I came ill. I do have some video of the ACOEs presentation. They seemed more than delighted to screw up our water even more.

Anonymous said...

Tribe’s name spelled wrong. It’s Miccosukee.